The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song! : All Songs Considered Hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton come to blows over the polarizing and hard-to-define art of "speak-singing."

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/149623697/149881191" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Clockwise from upper left: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Mountain Goats, Suzanne Vega. Courtesy of the artists hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artists

Few people can easily define it, but nearly everyone knows it when they hear it. Speak-singing, the murky marriage of spoken lyrics and sung melodies, can be heard in everything from 17th-century opera to The Velvet Underground and the latest Mountain Goats record. On this edition of All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton argue over the pros and cons of this polarizing art form and take a look at some of their favorite (and not-so-favorite) speak-singing artists. Plus, listeners chime in with some of their own picks.

Songs Featured On This Episode

Rex Harrison

No Alternative Text

"A Hymn to Him"

From 'My Fair Lady [Original Soundtrack]'

YouTube

The Velvet Underground

No Alternative Text

"Sweet Jane [Full Length Version]"

From 'Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]'

YouTube

William Shatner

No Alternative Text

"Common People"

From 'Has Been'

YouTube

The Modern Lovers

No Alternative Text

"She Cracked"

From 'The Modern Lovers'

YouTube

U2

No Alternative Text

"Pride (In the Name of Love)"

From 'Unforgettable Fire'

YouTube

Mozart

No Alternative Text

"Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), opera, K. 492 [Act 1. Scene 1 & 2. No. 2. Duettino. Se a caso madama]"

From 'Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro'

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/149623697/149870933" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Christine Schäfer

No Alternative Text

"Pierrot lunaire, melodrama for voice & chamber ensemble, Op. 21 [Act I, No. 1, "Mondestrunken"]"

From 'Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Herzgewächse; Ode to Napoleon'

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/149623697/149872868" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Laurie Anderson

No Alternative Text

"Blue Lagoon"

From 'Mister Heartbreak'

YouTube

Suzanne Vega

No Alternative Text

"Tom's Diner"

From 'Solitude Standing'

YouTube

The Mountain Goats

No Alternative Text

"Love Love Love"

From 'Sunset Tree'

YouTube

Wilco

No Alternative Text

"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"

YouTube